By Paul Helmke
On Saturday, August 28, 2010, thousands of people are expected to rally and march on behalf of the dream that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared so eloquently 47 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Representatives of the Brady Campaign and Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence will be at the Reclaim the Dream rally at 11 a.m. at Dunbar High School in Northwest D.C., followed by a march to the site of the King Memorial along the Tidal Basin.
Our staff, supporters, and board members will listen to the inspirational words of every group that shares the podium with Rev. Al Sharpton – the organizer – and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, Martin King, III, Bernice King, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Actor Danny Glover, and so many others.
We hope you’ll join us.
As King told us that day, the roots of his dream are intertwined with the roots of the American dream – a dream of justice, equality, freedom, and respect for people of all races, backgrounds, and religions.
The roots of King’s dream were planted in the soil of non-violence. They were nurtured by the soothing rains of brotherhood. They withstood battering by the bitter winds of hatred and ignorance. And ultimately, those roots helped catapult King’s dream closer to reality by the determination of his followers to, in his words, “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
These are not the best of times for racial harmony, or economic or social justice. These certainly are not the best of times for nonviolence. But the America of 2010 is a lot different from the America of 1963. Despite the challenge of slogging through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, life has improved for most Americans. Educational opportunities have expanded.
Despite a barrage of vitriol spewing from some talk show hosts and their followers, relationships between people of all races are not as divisive and caustic as they were some 50 years ago. With the vigilance and courage of conscientious civic, community, and political leaders, including gun violence prevention groups – and the enactment of commonsense gun laws — even violence in America has taken a dip.
But I am not satisfied with America’s progress on any of these fronts. We can do better.
As Rev. Sharpton’s National Action Network has pointed out, unemployment remains too high, particularly among African-Americans. So do high school drop-out rates. Women still face barriers in politics, employment, and other areas. Many Hispanics are the target of racially biased immigration policies that are ripping their families apart. Those who practice the Muslim faith are often regarded with unfounded suspicion and enmity. And when it comes to gun violence in America, we still are, shamefully and unnecessarily, burying thousands upon thousands too many men, women, and children of all races and backgrounds for any American to be satisfied.
Researchers at Harvard and UCLA recently released a study showing that U.S. homicide rates were 6.9 times higher than rates in the other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that were 19.5 times higher. For 15-year olds to 24-year olds, firearm homicide rates in the United States were 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.
When the equivalent of a Virginia Tech tragedy – 32 murdered by guns — happens every day in America, we cannot be satisfied that we are honoring the movement for peace and social justice that Dr. King so courageously led.
When the NRA bosses and others push for an America that allows guns for anyone, anywhere, and any time, we can’t be satisfied that we are honoring Dr. King’s dream.
Our vision at Brady is of an America where people are safe from gun violence — safe at work, at home, and in their communities. We are proud to add our voice to the Reclaim the Dream rally for greater racial, economic, and social justice, and for a safer America.
Again, we hope you’ll join us and continue the hard work of reclaiming a dream that is worthy of all Americans.
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